BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County officials are bristling after they got stuck with the bill and the grim task of euthanizing 39 cats abandoned just over the county line last week by a Pasco woman.
County Commission chairman Dave Russell has asked staffers to itemize the bill, and today he will ask for a consensus among commissioners to send the charges to Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher.
"I can't help but feel — and I'm not saying we were set up — but, as far as I'm concerned, this is a Pasco County jurisdictional issue," Russell said. "(The animals) were brought across the county line in order to evade prosecution, and we were the patsy."
Hernando Commissioner Jim Adkins said he is all for the idea of making Pasco pay.
"That was wrong for Pasco to do," he said. "I want to take a lot of our animals down to Mr. Gallagher's office and say, 'Here. Now we're even.' "
The bill totals $2,006.94, including $606.45 in staff time, $13.53 for vaccines for the 11 cats saved, $22.70 for medication used to euthanize the remaining cats, plus other fees and supplies.
Last week, Frances Terry Evans, who lives on the Pasco side of Spring Hill, loaded up 50 cats and three dogs in plastic storage boxes and kennels in a U-Haul truck. She was to meet later in the day with Pasco zoning officials, who were checking to be sure she complied with an order to empty the home of excess animals.
Officials said she drove them to the rear of the Publix store at Mariner Boulevard and County Line Road. She left them there, got into a car driven by her husband and intended to come back for the animals later.
Tipped off in advance, Pasco code enforcement officials watched the abandonment, then contacted the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
A press release from the Sheriff's Office later noted that "due to the rapid deteriorating condition of the animals, Pasco County code enforcement officials' refusal to accept the animals and the extreme heat environment," Hernando animal services officers decided the animals needed to go to the Hernando shelter.
Pasco zoning administrator Carol Clarke said her code enforcement officer doesn't recall a discussion in which she refused to take the animals.
"We were there on a zoning violation, not an animal health violation," she said. "My officers are not animal control officers. (Evans) voluntarily relinquished the animals to Hernando because that's where she was."
Gallagher told the Times in an email that he had reviewed what his code enforcement officers did and does not believe Pasco should pay the bill.